How Virtualization Helps Break Down the Barriers of Wi-Fi

April 16, 2015

While the industry is already discussing plans for 5G, the future of wireless carrier services probably looks a lot more like your existing (and admittedly less exciting) Wi-Fi router. The reality is that 4G/5G is ideal when you’re on the move, but not so much when you’re sitting in a chair indoors—which is what most of us are doing, most of the time. No wonder then that Wi-Fi has quickly (if quietly) become the wireless network of choice for enterprises and consumers. In the U.S., 60% of all mobile data consumed by smartphones and tablets is currently carried over a Wi-Fi network. In Europe, that number is even higher, at 78%.

Why are subscribers choosing Wi-Fi? It’s cheaper (because it’s “off network”) and it works better indoors, where 3G/4G signals are often weak. But Wi-Fi also lacks the quality/security of a true 4G experience, creating an opportunity for fixed and mobile network operators to provide a carrier-class Wi-Fi experience by integrating Wi-Fi connectivity into their core networks—and, yes, generate revenue from Wi-Fi services in the process. The challenge, as with most network transformations, is how to do this quickly, seamlessly and cost effectively. The answer is virtualization.

At Affirmed, we have enabled fixed and mobile operators to rapidly deploy a complete, secure Wi-Fi gateway solution—Trusted WLAN Access Gateway/Proxy (TWAG/TWAP) and evolved Packet Data Gateway (ePDG)—on consolidated, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. This drives down cost and complexity because it reduces the number of boxes in the network, and it allows network operators to quickly deploy a complete, proven and centralized solution that can be easily scaled across geographies.

We’ve taken the concept of consolidation even further by adding virtualized Value-Added Services (VAS) to our solution so that network operators can rapidly create and seamlessly orchestrate services over Wi-Fi networks to enhance the subscriber experience. Network operators, including one of North America’s largest cable providers, are already using our solution to deliver Voice over Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi roaming services.

One of the biggest barriers to bringing Wi-Fi into the core network is the issue of scalability. This comes to the fore when dealing with untrusted Wi-Fi networks, which require a high number of IPsec-encrypted sessions that can quickly test the limits of a physical gateway. Affirmed has solved this problem with a highly scalable, virtual ePDG solution that can increase the number of IPsec-encrypted sessions on demand by dynamically and intelligently shifting processing resources in real time without requiring additional hardware. As a result, fixed and mobile network operators can confidently bring Wi-Fi services into their LTE networks and deliver a seamless, high-quality experience over any wireless network.